By: Brady Koehler
Playing hockey is tough. It requires tremendous amounts of strength, skill and speed. When you add in a vision impairment, it’s nearly impossible but blind hockey rectifies this. In blind hockey, the puck is bigger than a regular hockey puck and it makes noise. There is no checking and the nets are slightly smaller than regular nets. This was all the adjustment I needed to succeed at a game I already loved. Before I started at NY Metro Blind Hockey, I played on a house league at a local ice rink. With 20/400 vision, I was never able to really compete. The level of play was too fast and finding the small puck was an unattainable challenge, even with a wide age range on the ice. Blind Hockey leveled the proverbial playing field for me. It allows me to safely compete at a team sport that I love.
I am so grateful to have this opportunity and I am always trying to contribute more by growing as a player. Our team practices twice a month and I literally count the days in between. During that time, I am constantly working on my own to improve my game. I workout twice a week with a trainer. My current goals are to increase my leg strength to make my skating faster and improve my lower body flexibility to improve my agility on the ice. I also work with a skating coach once a week. My focus right now is my edge work. I work extremely hard in order to improve and I don’t let anything stop me. If there’s still time left in the week after schoolwork, working with my trainer, working with my skating coach and our NYMBH practices, I workout with my friend and watch any NHL game I can find to improve my strategy and general understanding of the game. This may sound like a lot, but I truly love every minute!
Tournament play is my favorite aspect of blind hockey. I have been to multiple tournaments and events including ones in Tampa Bay, FL, Bayonne, NJ and Harrisburg, PA. I am also looking forward to the next event in Chicago. I can’t wait to see how my game has improved and to compete with other blind athletes. The comradery and friendships are almost as important as the hockey itself. It’s not easy to find friends who understand being vision impaired. Blind Hockey offers me those relationships as well as safe competitive sports.
At NYMBH, the people could not be more supportive and the relationships any stronger. It’s truly a privilege to come to the rink and lace up the skates every other week. Our coaches teach us elements of the game and constantly encourage us to do better. I have also met some of my closest friends there. We support each other on and off the ice. Together we are striving to earn a place on the USA National Blind Hockey team and eventually become paralympians. Hockey is a sport, but above that, hockey is a family and NYMBH is proof of that.